There's a different type of cake to suit every taste. The following are some of the most popular ones:
American Layer Cake
This basic butter cake is flavored with whatever suits the baker, from vanilla to coffee to strawberry. The cake is usually frosted.
Angel Food Cake
This tall, single-layer, butterless white cake is leavened with egg whites and baked in a tube pan. It is seldom frosted.
American Sponge Cake
A sponge cake is quite similar to an angel food cake but is slightly richer and moister. This is because it includes egg yolks that are beaten separately from the whites and then folded together.
A French version of sponge cake, génoise is also leavened with eggs. The difference is that the eggs are beaten together with sugar, and often a small amount of butter is added, resulting in a delicate texture that lends itself to layered and rolled cakes, such as jelly rolls.
This moist, light American classic falls somewhere between a sponge cake (it also contains lots of separated eggs) and a butter cake (although it often uses oil rather than butter).
Devil's Food Cake
This rich chocolate cake is made from a mix of acidic and alkaline ingredients that produces a reddish hue.
Usually baked in a loaf pan, this old-fashioned cake is rarely frosted. Its name comes from the weight of each ingredient—butter, sugar, eggs, flour—traditionally needed to make one cake.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Companion: The A to Z Guide to Everyday Cooking, Equipment and Ingredients (Time-Life Books, 2000)